The mobile health outreach bus run by the Oxford County Community Health Centre got a major boost this week, thanks to a $100,000 donation from Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Woodstock.
The bus, which started as a pilot project in September 2020, provides health care on wheels to people experiencing homelessness or precarious housing across the county. The bus can be found in different locations across the county every day, offering basic health care while bringing together mental-health and outreach supports.
The funding for the bus – initially provided through a one-time COVID-19 federal grant through the United Way Oxford – was set to end later the month. Because of the beneficial impact the bus was having on people throughout the county, the health centre decided to try to keep the bus going with existing resources.
The donation from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, one of the largest the company has made to date, was “entirely unexpected” and will help keep the bus on the road, officials said.
“Great things can happen when you strongly believe that it’s the right thing. The mobile health bus has far surpassed what we thought was possible in the initial days, particularly within a rural context,” said Randy Peltz, executive director of Oxford health centre. “(Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada) has demonstrated a wonderful belief in the mobile service, which only serves to strengthen a sense of well-being and belonging in Oxford County, regardless of who you are or your circumstances.”
Between September 2020 and May 2021, the health bus made 900 encounters, more than half of which were in Woodstock. Some people had no fixed address while others were precariously or temporarily housed. Some were housed but needed access to more health-care services while others were in shelters, officials said.
While Oxford County paramedics were the initial lead partner in getting the bus up and running, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Southwestern public health, the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection and Oxford County’s human services department have also joined.
“At Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, we believe in innovation and challenging the status quo,” said Derek Kidnie, vice-president of administration. “We see these qualities reflected in how the (Oxford health centre) approaches its programs and services while fostering hope and wellness. We are happy to support this unique program to reach the at-risk population in Oxford County.”
Services offered by the mobile health outreach bus include wound and vein care, harm reduction, foot care and infection prevention, as well as ordering and completing various tests, including pregnancy and COVID-19. The bus also provides referrals to the mental health association, on-the-spot mental-health support, and help with applications for identification and financial assistance programs.